It’s a fantasy straight out of a children’s novel. Get the map. Follow the clues. Find the buried treasure. Seems simple, right?
According to the Edmonton-based company GoldHunt, finding $100,000 in solid gold and silver buried in your city could be that easy.
In a plot straight out of Treasure Island, the company says it has buried three chests containing $100,000 in gold within the city limits of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Participants can sign up for the treasure hunt online for a map containing clues, riddles and hints. The maps, which cost $25, will be released on June 1, at which point the hunt will begin.
“We believe that $100,000 is kind of that magic number that could really make a huge difference in someone’s life,” GoldHunt spokesperson Chris Cromwell told HuffPost.
The prospect of a real-life treasure hunt has residents buzzing and preparing. But what kind of supplies does a treasure hunter need?
Heather Acker lives in Stoney Plain, just outside of Edmonton and she signed up for the Edmonton hunt. Her must-have treasure-hunting list includes a metal detector, a shovel, a brand-new pirate hat just for the occasion, and plenty of helping hands.
“A couple of friends of mine are going to help, and my husband and my daughter and her boyfriend. So anything I can’t figure out, they’re going to help me,” she says.
Acker says says her group is already brushing up on knowledge of Edmonton’s history and locations, and plans to have some people out in the field during the hunt and others back home, helping to solve the clues.
“Somebody’s got to find it,” she says. “And if it’s us, that’d be great.”
Questions of legitimacy
Since quietly launching in mid-March, GoldHunt has sparked online curiosity around its funding, legality and if there are actually chests of gold buried in these three cities.
Medicine Hat resident Ally DeWolfe signed up for a map in Calgary. She says that while she has concerns about the group’s legitimacy, she thinks the hunt will still be fun — whether or not she finds $100,000 at the end.
“I think a lot of people are still not sure if it’s a legit thing,” she said. “If it was, you know, a big company that back something like this, I think people would be a lot more confident. Nobody really knows who’s organizing it — it just kind of popped up.”
“We’re ultimately just a group of passionate individuals who wanted to put together something that’s really fun that has the potential to change someone’s life.”
Cromwell says the organizers of the GoldHunt are a “group of gold and silver enthusiasts,” and that the $300,000 in gold was funded by an anonymous investor in Edmonton.
“We’re ultimately just a group of passionate individuals who wanted to put together something that’s really fun that has the potential to change someone’s life,” he said.
In response to questions on their Facebook page, GoldHunt organizers assured interested participants that the treasure is real.
“The initial treasure has been secured in trust with our lawyer’s office,” organizers said.
But despite DeWolfe’s skepticism, she said the prospect of a real-life treasure hunt was enough to spark her interest.
“We really like puzzles and escape rooms and it seems like one of those things — a real-life escape room,” DeWolfe says. “So if at the end of the day if I paid $50 to basically just chase after and solve some puzzles, it’ll be a fun day.
Cromwell says the company has followed all of the proper legal protocols to operate in Alberta and B.C. There will be a limit to the maps sold for each city to prevent overcrowding, and participants are encouraged to contact Alberta One Call or B.C. One Call to submit a request before digging.
“We obviously discourage people from doing anything that’s outside of their current skill level, or anything that could potentially be dangerous,” Cromwell says. “We are doing our best to mitigate, I guess, the safety concerns that may come as part of this adventure.”
Some participants are getting in on the action early. While GoldHunt is offering a deluxe map with additional hints and clues for $45, some participants are getting creative to get a step ahead.
Edmonton resident Scot Guignion says that while the map hasn’t been released yet, he’s been tracking the GoldHunt organizers on social media to hopefully devise some early hints.
“I’m watching every location that [Cromwell] is going to [when he was] on CTV News,” Guignion says. “I saw the park [on social media] that he was sitting in his car in doing a radio interview this morning. I saw the signs in the background. I know exactly where he was.”
“I would hate to be that person that found the treasure and arrived at the end and, like, forgot a shovel.”
Acker says that despite moving to the city seven years ago, she plans to brush up on her knowledge of Edmonton.
“My husband’s getting me a city atlas and maps and everything so we can strategize,” she says. “It’s going up on the wall with little pins on what we know and what we don’t know.”
One thing Acker, DeWolfe and Guignion agree on is that the most important strategy is to bring a shovel.
“It’s the most obvious thing” DeWolfe laughed. “I would hate to be that person that found the treasure and arrived at the end and, like, forgot a shovel.”
And if they find the treasure? DeWolfe says she’ll invest it into her business. Guignion says he’ll use it to pay off some debts. And Acker?
“Oh my gosh, I’ll just have a party probably,” she says. “A big barbeque — with Alberta beef.”